Wednesday, 29 June 2011

How do we ensure food security?

To lift people out of poverty and ensure food security, a sustained effort is needed to develop Kenya’s agriculture and the associated infrastructure – notably roads, telecommunication, and energy – needed to unleash agricultural potential.

Strengthening agriculture is one of the best investments Kenya can make.

Investment in agriculture the country must focus on creating a dynamic smallholder sector.

This is crucial for rural employment, without which poor rural young people will be driven away from their communities in search of work in the cities.

The reasons behind Kenya’s reliance on rain-fed agriculture are varied and complex. Alternative farming technologies are rarely adopted because farmers lack adequate access to credit inputs and markets. Water is another limiting factor. Only farmers with access to water and efficient water management technologies can effectively practice crop diversification.

Despite the potential of rainwater harvesting to empower local communities and enhance their development capacities, there are several hindrances. These include: lack of awareness, lack of institutional framework in terms of non-existent or poor policies at national and local levels, information gaps, low investment in research and development and lack of private sector participation indicates the SFCCD report.

With rainwater harvesting, farmers can regain control over when and how to use water effectively to enhance food production. Utilisation of the harvested water is integrated with other complementary technologies (e.g. drip irrigation); improved sanitation; livelihood activities; environmental conservation; and training to ensure a sustainable rainwater harvesting system.
An exhibition on how sprinkle irrigation works for a
 small scale farmer by the Kenya Seed Company

On the other hand, will Kenya always rely on Non Governmental Organizations, Development partners and donors to come up with model projects that act as an eye opener of the role of small scale famers in feeding the nation?

Examples of the achievements to attain food security are: The people of Sauri have worked with experts to diversify the crops currently produced, in order to have wider access. Farmers who experience an increased level of income are able to branch out into the unexplored territory of income generating activities, such as growing high value crops such as onions, tomatoes, kale, herbs, and fruit as introduced to them through the village program. Sauri looks back on five years of success.

Some years back, the US Secretary of State Hillary  Clinton said “Food security is not just about food, it is all about security – economic security, environmental security, even national security.” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Clinton Global Initiative Closing Plenary.

“If we can build partnerships with countries to help small farmers improve their agricultural output and make it easier to buy and sell their products at local or regional markets, we can set off a domino effect,” Clinton explained. “We can increase the world’s food supply for both the short and the long term; diminish hunger; raise farmers’ incomes; improve health; expand opportunity; and strengthen regional economies.”

While delivering his budget statement, Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta disclosed that the attainment of food security was adversely affected by effects of climate change on agriculture.

What about the solutions? He proposed the elimination of tax tariffs to cushion the vulnerable groups. Allocating funds to encourage urban farming, more funds allocated for long term measures, water harvesting and storage, increased acreage under irrigation with an aim of positively affecting the lives of many households.

There should be a focus on: improving co-operation between the public, private and voluntary sectors, and on strategies to identify strengths and weaknesses, and on fostering knowledge based economy.

Fostering opportunities for new businesses in emerging sectors; creating conditions that will help small innovative firms grow; revitalizing the local economy including considering the role for economic diversification; building community capacity; enhancing knowledge resources, and institutional, human and social resources; shifting to the knowledge economy; and, maximizing the benefits of the stimulus packages while reducing the downside risks.

Access to timely information by rural communities cannot only increase agricultural productivity but enhance social and economic development; many farmers in rural areas lack even the basic access to information.
Agriculture officers demonstrating to farmers and stakeholders on proper
crop husbandry 

There is need to bring the knowledge and perspectives of farmers together with decision-makers at other levels. It is crucial that research in agriculture, food security and climate change continues to improve and deliver, to allow more confident decision-making and allocation of limited resources towards uncertain climatic futures this is according to a Policy Brief from the International Research Institute (IRI) Climate and Society No.1.

The brief further state that, incorporating climate information into development decisions allows the risks associated with climate to b e better managed and reduces vulnerability among the poor.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Food security: Time to think of the small scale farmers

Agriculture is the essence of life, but it seems leaders are not getting the idea as farmers continue to experience the effects of climate change and in their own innovative ways, are rapidly adapting. A walk in various farms of Western Kenya farmers, many reiterate that, they have witnessed unpredictable weather conditions with long spells of drought and irregular rains that have had a negative effect on their lives.
“By May, our maize crops would have tussled after we had top dressed but we are still planting or weeding for the first time. The planting season is over and we are not sure if we will have the yield we anticipate,” the farmers lament.
Christiana Figueres, Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Fund Council Chair and Vice President of Sustainable Development at the World Bank Inger Andersen, during the COP 16 meet in Caucun, Mexico, noted that agriculture is an area that needs to be moved into the negotiations.
“The story about agriculture is one that is on everybody’s mind,” she said; “agriculture needs to be positive for people, positive for productivity and positive for climate.”
Improving agricultural productivity is the key for reducing poverty in the country. A global consensus has emerged that agriculture must move up on the global development agenda, and that investment in agriculture, especially smallholder agriculture, must be increased if the twin goals of poverty reduction and food security are to be achieved.

In fact, if Kenya is to achieve the first Millennium Development Goal to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, the agriculture sector needs to grow much faster and maintain annual growth rate of 6.2 percent. This requires that we work on every single aspect of the agriculture production chain from regenerating depleted soil, using better seeds and more suitable fertilizers, whether organic or industrial, to drastically improving the quality of so-called extension services that support agriculture. It implies working on marketing and storage issues, road infrastructure and financial services.
Only by tackling all those aspects at once, involving both the public and private sectors, will we manage to improve agriculture productivity in a sustainable way.
One consequence of this neglect is the appalling state of rural infrastructure in Kenya. This leaves rural areas, which have the potential to feed the more than 40 million hungry people, cut off and isolated. Kenya has only exploited a fraction of its irrigation potential, and the density of rural roads today is a fraction of what Asia had in the 1950s. As a result, farmers rely almost exclusively on rain-fed farming and face exceptionally high transport and marketing costs that makes a shift to more efficient farming unprofitable.
Kofi Annan, Chairperson of the Board of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), has acknowledged this isolation:
“The average African small holding farmer swims alone. She has no insurance against erratic weather patterns, gets no subsidies, and has no access to credit. I say ‘she’ because the majority of small-scale farmers in Africa are women.”
Access to farm inputs is critical in increasing farm productivity.
Current use of agricultural inputs and financial services is low amongst smallholder farmers in Kenya. Small-scale farmers in rural areas of Kenya have not been able to access financial services for acquiring farm inputs among other needs to improve farm productivity. This is partly due to low density of financial institutions in rural areas; inappropriate financial products; high cost and high risks of lending. Smallholder farmers adjust by resorting to informal credit, reduction of farm inputs, sub-optimal production techniques, and borrowing from family and friends.
This limits the investment in farm equipment and capital as well as other agricultural assets and inputs. As a result, there is need for practical assistance and capacity building to be provided by the private sector. Secondly, financing rainwater harvesting projects through micro-credit organizations that appear to be a sustainable delivery vehicle to enabling communities address the challenges of access to water and sanitation. In addition,small-scale farmers concentrate on low risk, low return activities because they cannot access start-up capital and cannot transfer system risks.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

I have a Papa to look upon always

Photo | Google

“I only have two children who are always worried when daddy is not home, they will wait until daddy arrives home,” said Daddy.

*Mary* (not the real name of mummy) you should be calling me at times to find out if I have left work because you never know what might happen. You can be waiting for me to come but it might not happen,” said Daddy.

“ I like a family which is cohesive, it makes us be bonded to one another, it creates that love for one another.”
These are some of the many words that have kept me going on and on each and every day from my daddy.
A daddy whom I cherish from the bottom of heart:

My dad is my role model for
Most everything I do.
I look to him to see what's right
He always gets me through.

He once told me, “The more confident you are, the better you are in life. Think big, look big. In life you do not choose enemies but friends.” 

I recall the year 2003 in the month of October, my dad had travelled overseas and because of his concern, being a year I was to sit for my high school examinations, he wrote me a letter, I have kept to date:

Dear Beloved Son David,

I hope you are ok and pushing on well with your daily activities. This way is still fine and we are in transition from warm and nice summer to snowy and cold winter season. After dropping you at school, I took your sister Selinah to hers arriving shortly after 7pm. We left her after checking her in and headed home. I also had a safe trip back to the USA after being in Kenya on business and having time with you and family in August.
This is a message of encouragement from your father who loves and cares for you. I am certainly sure that you are capable, hard working, responsible and thus able to sail through your examination.  I wish you all success and hope that you will follow the footsteps of your father in setting-up a good example for the other young ones to emulate.For now, I am sure that you are well prepared and handling or ready to approach your final examination with an open mind.

It is through education that one can hope of having a bright future. I wish you well and hope to come together GOD willing to celebrate your success as a family. Keep working hard son. Pass my regards to your mates.
Yours Father.

I reminiscence, those days I was young, mum had gone to visit her parents. I was with daddy at home, he would wake up each morning and prepare breakfast before I went to school, when lunch came, I found he had cooked it already for; he would tuck me in bed at night.

Not that he was all that good, I he would cane me if I did wrong, if I failed in my studies because all he wanted was for me to become a good role model for my brothers and sister.

“When you do something, you do your best. There is no compromise on truth and doing what’s right. If people are being abused, mistreated, robbed…then someone has to stand up and say “stop”. That was my dad.

For all this he meant that, the trail you leave behind will be a path that people would look out for and come back for you because they love associating with a person who contributes to positive change in the society.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Climate Change impacting heavily on Western Kenya and North Rift

“Climate change is real, it is coming but we can mitigate a little of its effects,” said the former Director General for Conservation Union (IUCN), Julia Marton.

There once was a time when people thought of the environment, of its beauty; but now as the natural beauty of the earth that once was disappears, many people around the world have awoken to the realities of just how fragile our earth actually is.

How can the government heed to the environmentalists challenge to invest in future economic development technology as a mitigation strategy against the effects of climate change?

Central to this issue is pollution, which involves the introduction of harmful substances into the air, land, and water. Although pollution has been occurring throughout the earth’s history, the rate by which the human species have contributed to the amount of pollution that has entered our environment over the past several hundred years far exceeds the earth’s inherent ability to heal itself.

“We are using our atmosphere as dust bins,” noted Prof S.Odingo during the 22nd climate outlook for the Greater horn of Africa in 2008.

Along with pollution, the mass deforestation of the world’s old growth forests has also posed a growing problem to the health of our environment. The clearance of forests without sufficient reforestation has gradually worn down nature’s natural defense against air pollution, desertification, and soil nutrient loss to the point that we are now facing a future world without trees, which would ultimately mean a world without people.

So many millions of people in this vast and lovely Western and North Rift region do not have access to clean water and seeing women, children and water vendors walking for miles carrying heavy water canisters back to their families and market every single day of their lives is a very sobering sight.

Bore holes are drying, vegetables, onions and tomatoes are necking expensive to buy, there is no water.

Water has become a huge area of concern; water will be the next oil in terms of global scarcity and value. Some are fortunate to be self-sufficient with a bore hole drilled down to the vast under-earth aquifers that stem all the way from North Africa to the source of the River Nile. However, we still do not know how to save all the water we can and use rainwater captured via the gutters on our buildings for much of our water needs.

Water catchments are becoming increasingly degraded in Kenya while agricultural areas, industry and human population are steadily expanding. Therefore, human settlement coupled with deforestation and soil erosion has led to water and food shortages

Read more:

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Realities of Today

"Today, many will break through the barriers of the past by looking at the blessings of the present. Why not you?" Steve Maraboli

The day is coming, few moments the day will come/ I will arrive with the rising sun.
The calm of solitude will be replaced by the pounding pure pace of the human race, invaded with DECISIONS to be made and DEADLINES to be met.

The next 12 hours will be exposed to the day’s demands. It is NOW that I must make a CHOICE.
I choose LOVE

No occasion justifies hatred; no justice warrants bitterness. I choose love.
Today I will love god and what God loves.

I will invite god to be the God of circumstances.
I will refuse the temptation…the tool of the lazy thinker.
…to see any problem as anything less than an opportunity to see God.

I choose peace
I will live forgiven. I will forgive so that I may live.
I choose patience

Rather than complain that the wait is too long, I will thank God for a moment to pray. Instead of clinching my fist I will face them with joy and courage

I will be kind to the poor, for they are alone. Kind to the rich for they are afraid.
I will keep my promises. My debtors will not regret their trust in me.

• My associates will not question my word.
• My love will not question my love.
• And my children will never fear that their father will not come home.

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

To these I commit my day.

If I succeed, I will give thanks. If I fail, I will seek his grace.
And then, when this day is done, I will place my on my pillow and rest.